February 20, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)

Drug Advertising

A society trained to accept the preposterous claims, the deceptions, and the

vulgarities of American advertising can perhaps be manipulated into accepting


Henry Steele Commager

It was the day that I joined the infantry as a medic (If my memory serves me correctly, it was the 3rd platoon of B company, 328th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Army). I was seated in a house in Germany with the people who I was to work with. After all of the introductions, we were making small talk. I looked at the floor and saw a grenade pin. I said so and suddenly I was sitting in that room all alone. After a few moments, a face peered in the door and someone said, "I guess it was just a pin." They all returned.

The fact that those men were alive was a testimony to their mastery of the craft of combat infantryman. They all knew how to protect themselves in a deadly environment. I was a novice.

I remembered the orientation films that I had been shown about booby traps. A common booby trap was made by placing a grenade (pin removed) in a food can and attaching it to string, and the string to a closet door. If someone opened the door, it would pull the grenade out of the can and it would explode.

Those were the deadly booby traps of World War II. The booby traps of a peace-time world are called "commercials." Their purpose is to induce boobies to purchase things. They are carefully crafted to trap the fools who are lured by those sorts of things.

The people who craft commercials know their business. They also know their audience, and craft their commercials to appeal to the gullible people who will buy them. They also know what programs those people watch. It is no accident that certain commercials are prevalent in sports events, some are pitched to children, some to adolescents. None are crafted to appeal to me because (1) I don't watch them and (2) If I did accidentally see one, I would deliberately not purchase the product. I detest commercials.

The high cost of prescription drugs is a major problem, particularly among the Medicare set and more particularly among people who are totally dependent on their Social Security. A number of politicians believe that the government should pay for prescription drugs. There is also considerable pressure placed on congress and the president by the drug lobby, which spends big bucks influencing politicians.

I am not talking about the standard and effective drugs, which are relatively inexpensive. A lot of money is spent promoting new drugs. Almost all advertised pain killers are no more effective than cheap aspirin or acetaminophen as pain killers and fever reducers. Some cause less stomach irritation and some are longer lasting. For heavy duty pain, you need heavy duty pain killers, all of which are addicting and most are opium derivatives or synthetic opioids and must be prescribed by a physician. They are relatively cheap.

Viagra(sildenafil) is being marketed as an aphrodisiac (It improves your love life, dancing, popularity etc.). During the clinical trials of that drug, it was effective in improving the sex lives of 61% of the men who used it. The placebo(a sugar pill) was effective in improving the sex lives of 22% of the men who took it.

If you watch TV, you know that drugs are heavily advertised. What you may not know is that only the US and New Zealand permit the advertising of prescription drugs to the public. It is one of the reasons why US-produced prescription drugs are much cheaper in Canada. In 2000, almost two and a half billion dollars was spent on direct drug advertising to the consumer. Those drugs would be as cheap in this country as they are in Canada if congress would pass a law making the advertising of prescription drugs illegal, as it is in most of the industrial world. It would be a much better solution to the problem of the exorbitant price of prescription drugs, especially to the elderly. Thanks to the bribery of our politicians by the drug industry, that is not even being considered.

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